Forgiveness is not always easy, and for some people forgiving themselves is harder, still. We are all flawed and absurd to some degree or another. We all have our fantasies and our desires and our messy, confusing history to unravel. Most of us can look in the rearview mirror and spot a few choices we’d make differently, given the chance to go back and make them over again. But life doesn’t move backward. And whatever is behind you has brought you to this very moment, where you find yourself reading these words. Where you could, if you wanted to, take a very deep breath right now and exhale out some old pain. You don’t have to keep everything, filed away and heavy.
Shame is crippling. It shuts you down and makes you doubt yourself at best, loathe yourself at worst. Shame usually travels with guilt. But you can only ever be where you are. You work with the tools you’ve got, until you have better tools. Then you use those. Maybe you can go back and mend some fences, it never hurts to try. It’s possible something beautiful will emerge. If you’ve hurt people, you can always ask for forgiveness. But eventually, you have to forgive yourself, and use what you’ve learned to do it differently next time. Hopefully as you travel, you have greater resources and a deeper understanding of yourself. Maybe you could throw a little self-compassion into the mix. Go a little easier on yourself. If you’ve hurt people, join the crowd of everyone else who’s hurt people. Most of us flail around at some point or another, grasping at things that don’t exist, or exist only in our minds.
There was a time many years ago, for example, when I was convinced this certain guy was my soul-mate and that he would be with me if only he could. But I had a boyfriend when we met, and then he had a girlfriend, and our timing never synched up. In the meantime, he flirted with me, and I lived out this fantasy in my mind of how amazing it would be if we were together. Like we were star-crossed lovers or something. And then the timing did synch, and he didn’t pursue it, and the next thing I knew he had a girlfriend again. This guy who’d been feeding my fantasy for a few years. And I felt toyed with and rejected and confused and angry, because what was with all the flirting? All the emails? Sometimes we create something out of thin air and longing and projections and someone else’s carelessness. And really, there’s no there there. When you’re honest with yourself, you realize if a person wants to be with you, they’re going to find a way. Of course sometimes it’s not a lack of desire, it’s the circumstances. But if you’re aching for connection, for someone to see you and know you well and deeply, that’s beautiful. There’s no shame in that.
Sometimes we’re in so much pain and darkness, we blindly reach for something we don’t even understand. We want closeness but aren’t ready for it. Or some part of us wants it, and some part of us is terrified at the thought of it. When we don’t know ourselves well and we seek intimacy anyway, we’re likely to hurt ourselves, and other people, too. It’s not intentional. Most people don’t set out to hurt anyone. Forgive yourself and forgive others as much as you can, but also do your best to get right with yourself so your pain isn’t ruling your life. Sometimes you’ll make a real mess out of things, and sometimes you’ll be on the receiving end of someone else’s confusion. Take good care of your heart, and as best you can, take good care of other people’s hearts. A heart is precious. You don’t want to be reckless with it. Short of that, you might as well celebrate your humanness. Don’t hide it, there’s no point, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Embrace your whole self, even the absurd parts. Maybe especially those. Be vulnerable. You might as well, because you are, just by being human. Fighting that is pointless. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Learn as you go, and forgive yourself the times when you didn’t and couldn’t know better. What’s in front of you is the thing. That’s where the potential is. Don’t block the road with shame. You’re beautiful, you really are. Sending you love. Ally